The bestselling author of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is back with an 'effervescent comedy' (The New Yorker)
The follow up to her hugely popular first novel presents a Canterbury Tales-inspired picaresque that is also a biting satire of economic exploitation. When a ragtag international crew of migrant workers is forced to flee the strawberry fields they have been working in, they set off across England looking for employment. Displaying the same sense of compassion, social outrage, and gift for hilarity that she showed in A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Marina Lewycka chronicles their bumpy road trip with a tender affection for her downtrodden characters and their search for a taste of the good life.
U.K.-based Lewycka, a Booker and Orange Prize nominee for 2005's A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, follows up with a Chaucer-inspired tale of migrant workers trapped at global capital's thuggish bottom. After being "helped" into England by men like Vulk, an armed, lecherous creep of indeterminate former east bloc origins, a disparate group of strawberry pickers begins a pilgrimage-like search for labor across the countryside after their philandering boss is run over and crippled by his wife. Among them are two Ukrainians: Irina, a na ve teenager from Kiev, and Andriy, a former coal miner. After a brief stop in Canterbury, the workers from Malawi, China, Malaysia and elsewhere arrive in Dover with their loyal dog. There, they unexpectedly meet shady "recruitment consultant" Vitaly, who promises jobs in "the dynamic resurgence of the poultry industry." The plot moves slowly, and things get worse for the group. Lewycka doesn't have a perfect command of all the cultures she aims to represent, making some of her satires broad and unfunny. There are, however, captivating scenes (some not for the squeamish), and many of the characters are complex and multifaceted, Irina and Andriy in particular. As a send up of capitalism's grip on the global everyman, Lewycka's ensemble novel complements Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan.